A Fresh Perspective: Dr. Josiah Osagie’s Youth-Led Advocacy in Psychiatry

This May, in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, we proudly highlight Dr. Josiah Osagie, a dynamic psychiatry resident on the brink of completing his training. Dr. Osagie’s fervent promotion of accessible mental health services and culturally sensitive care reflects the passion and dedication of young professionals. Born in Lagos, Nigeria, and now based in Toronto, his journey exemplifies the transformative impact that fresh perspectives can bring to mental health advocacy.

Dr. Josiah Osagie may not excel at soccer, as he would admit, but his talent for medicine and art is palpable. He smiles as he reminisces about his days in ArtBeat during his early years in medical school and delves into profound reflections on mental health. As a psychiatry resident on the cusp of becoming a psychiatrist, he passionately advocates for accessible mental health services, emphasizing the need for comprehensive care that includes both psychiatric treatment and supportive psychotherapy.

Dr. Osagie was born in Lagos, Nigeria, where traditional professional expectations loomed large. “In Nigeria, you are expected to be a doctor, lawyer, engineer, or accountant, maybe,” he says. Despite these societal norms, Dr. Josiah Osagie found solace in the unwavering support of his family. His close bond with his parents and siblings provided a nurturing environment for both personal and professional growth. With a mother dedicated to community outreach and a father versed in public relations, Dr. Osagie’s upbringing was imbued with values of empathy and social responsibility.

Fourteen years ago, Dr. Osagie moved to Toronto, marking the beginning of a significant phase in his life. He started his higher education at the University of Toronto, focusing on human biology, with minors in psychology and French. As he transitioned into medical school at the same university, he delved into various medical fields before discovering his passion for psychiatry.

This dedication led to his being awarded the Dr. Benjamin W. Appleton Prize in psychiatry, an honor that took him by surprise, as he humbly remarked, “I didn’t realize my love for psychiatry was so visible. Having a position, whether that be a prize or an MD by your name, is a tool that you can use to push your message.” This acknowledgment has energized his efforts to advocate for mental health awareness and support.

In his commitment to supporting the mental wellbeing of Black individuals, Dr. Josiah Osagie emphasizes the importance of culturally safecare. He acknowledges the diversity within the Black community, highlighting the varied backgrounds and experiences that shape each individual’s journey. When discussing therapeutic approaches, Dr. Osagie underscores the significance of building a therapeutic alliance with patients, stating, “A trusting and authentic relationship is fundamental to successful treatment.” By understanding the unique context and experiences of each patient, including the influence of race, therapists can tailor their approaches effectively.

Beyond medicine, Dr. Osagie finds inspiration in artistic pursuits. He believes, “Art is not just a hobby; it’s an essential part of my life and work.” For him, artistic expression is a way to probe the intricacies of life and address existential questions. Dr. Osagie finds that art enriches his understanding of human emotions and experiences, offering perspectives that go beyond traditional medical views. In his psychiatric practice, he integrates artistic insights to deepen his comprehension of mental health and to investigate new therapeutic approaches. “Embracing art helps me foster empathy and creativity, enriching both my own life and the lives of my patients,” he asserts.

When looking to the future, Dr. Osagie envisions a mental health landscape that is universally accessible and reflective of the community it serves, advocating for free psychotherapy and increased Black representation in psychiatry. He underscores the necessity of societal action on social determinants, stating, “Issues like housing, cost of living, and fair employment are crushing us. As physicians, our role extends to advocating for change, sitting on committees, writing, and speaking out. We must take the social determinants of health seriously.”

In just a month’s time, Dr. Osagie will shed the title of resident to embrace the full scope of responsibilities as a psychiatrist. With his blend of medical expertise and artistic sensibility, he is poised to make a significant impact in the field. As he reflects on his journey, he offers a message of hope and determination to those following in his footsteps: “Psychiatry is fascinating and rewarding,” he assures. “The challenges of medical school are many, but with support and curiosity, you will not only survive but thrive.”

Dr. Osagie’s transition is not just a personal milestone; it heralds a wave of youthful innovation and the potential to foster change in the mental health landscape. His advocacy for accessible care and increased representation in psychiatry is a testament to his commitment to the well-being of all communities.

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